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Russian Socialists in the Struggle for Democracy

For the past few weeks, protests for fair elections in upcoming municipal polls have become weekly in Moscow and St. Petersburg as thousands have defied authorities to attend unsanctioned rallies. The police crackdown has been particularly harsh in Moscow. Protests on July 27 and August 3 resulted in over 2000 detentions. Images of police in riot gear wrestling citizens to the ground and beating peaceful protesters were reminiscent of the mass protests against election fraud in 2011-2012.

Members of the Russian Socialist Movement, a small Marxist, anti-Stalinist organization active in the Russian left, have been participants in local electoral campaigns and in the protests. Two RSM activists, Valeria Kovelishina and Ilya Budraitskis talk about the Russian Socialist Movement, their electoral work, the protests for democracy in Russia and what they might mean for the future.

Witnessing the Collapse of Communism

Roundtable discussion marking the 30th anniversary of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. Participants include Timothy Garton Ash, Bridget Kendall, and Jens Reich.

The Evictors

Around Moscow, there’s a whole industry of so-called “black creditors” — microfinance institutions (or MFOs) that swindle and seize debtors’ homes. Ivan Golunov’s investigation for Meduza has discovered that almost 500 apartments have been seized from their owners over the past five years without so much as a court order. In fact, this scheme involves more than simply “squeezing” people from their homes. It is possibly part of a wider, international money-laundering system. Here’s Meduza special correspondent Ivan Golunov on the ins and outs of this industry.

Volgograd Bombing

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Russia suffered its first terrorist attack outside the North Caucasus since the Domodedovo airport bombing that killed 37 and injured 178 in January 2011. Though the situation is still fluid, here is what’s known so far. Six people are dead and more than 30 injured when a female suicide bomber identified as Nadia Asiyalova, 30, a resident of Dagestan, exploded a bomb with screws and shrapnel through the main cabin of a bus in Krasnoarmeisk district of Volgograd. The explosion occurred around 2 pm as the bus left a stop. Describing the scene, one source told Kommersant, “There were people without arms and legs. I’ve only seen this during counter-terrorist operations in Chechnya, but didn’t think that I would witness something similar in peacetime.”

Looks like North Caucasian terrorists have decided to bring the war closer to home.

Unsurprisingly, one of Russia’s famous dash-cams captured the explosion:

Asiyalova is the wife of Dmitri Sokolov, a Russian who joined the Makhachalia Brigade terrorist group in Makhachkalia, the capital of Dagestan. Sokolov apparently converted to Wahhabi Islam in 2010. According to information from Russia’s security forces the couple met at university in Moscow where Asiyalova recruited Sokolov. A year ago, a Life-Alert was issued pleading for information on Sokolov’s whereabouts. Sokolov is said to have disappeared in July 2011 after not coming home after an Arabic language class. As for Asiyalova, it’s being reported that she suffered from a severe bone disease, which, in addition to her conversion of Wahhabism, might have played a factor in becoming a suicide bomber. At any rate, she becomes the latest “black widow” to strike Russia.

According to Life News, police are hunting for three men suspected as the possible organizers of the attack: Sokolov and two others, Ruslan Kazanbiev, 25, and Kurban Omarov, 25. The latter two are believed to have orchestrated a bombing in Dagestan that killed 14 and wounded 100 in May 2012.

The bombings come just a few months after Doku Umarov, the self-proclaimed Emir of the Caucasus Emirate and Russia’s most wanted terrorist, called for terrorist attacks on Russia in the lead up to the Sochi Winter Olympics. Asiyalova’s attack just might be the first of more to come.